Tonight, President Donald Trump will address the nation in his first State of the Union address since taking office.
This speech is a report card from the president on how the nation is doing, what he has achieved over the past year, and what he proposes to do about domestic and international issues.
The theme for tonight’s address is reportedly “building a safe, strong, and proud America.”
While the speech is important to pay attention to, the people in the room and the reactions of attendees provide important signals as well.
Here’s a rundown of what to watch for tonight:
Celebration & Optimism – The economy is roaring and workers are benefitting. Expect President Trump to tout tax reform and pro-growth policies for job creation, low unemployment (historically low for blacks and Hispanics), bonuses, new benefits, and more. He will likely also cover how regular Americans are reaping from a stock market that gained $3 trillion in value since he was elected and hit countless record highs.
Opportunities for Bipartisanship – Immigration reform and infrastructure are likely to be the two areas that President Trump reaches out to Congress on. Both issues could be contentious, but they also hold the promise of bringing Washington together. Look for the president to spend some time discussing each.
Opioids – The opioid epidemic is at crisis levels with federal, state, and local authorities coming together to address it. Last year, President Trump declared it a “health emergency” and outlined some plans for action. He will likely spotlight the issue again and highlight the incredible story of a New Mexico police officer who adopted a baby from two drug-addicted parents.
#Resist Trolling – Some Democratic members plan to use their plus-ones to protest policies of the president and Republicans. Guests reportedly include DACA recipients, displaced Puerto Rico residents, and even political opponents of incumbent congressmen. There’s a tradition of congressmen and congresswomen on both sides using their invited guests to troll the president. However, we have to ask at what point trolling stops being funny and becomes exploitative.
Empty chairs – A number of Democratic lawmakers will not attend the State of the Union in protest of the President. Some of them include members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep Maxine Waters made her feelings clear earlier this month: “Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar?” Waters said on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” … “I don’t trust him, I don’t appreciate him and I wouldn’t waste my time … listening to what he has to say,” she continued. “He does not deserve my attention.”
- Black – Democratic women plan to show their support for the #MeToo movement, which stands against sexual harassment and assault, by wearing all black. This contrasts the all-white that some Democratic women wore last February to President Trump’s first address to Congress.
Given the climate in Washington, there will be cheers and maybe boos from Congress and guests. However, this tradition is an important time for us to hear from our nation’s leader the vision for our country and how to achieve it.
Look out for a roundup on our blog and a Working for Women podcast discussion of the speech tomorrow. Enjoy the show!